The NFL has filed a reply brief with an appeals court Monday while awaiting a decision on whether an injunction allowing Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to play during his legal battle with the league would be overturned.
The league is trying to accelerate the timeline in its appeal of U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant's injunction that blocked Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic violence case in Ohio.
"The bottom line is that the district court had no basis to act at all, let alone to deem procedural rulings firmly grounded in the parties’ CBA fundamentally unfair," the reply brief stated.
An emergency motion filed by the NFL with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Friday requested a ruling by Sept. 26 on its request to overrule Mazzant's decision on the injunction. (See all the court documents below.)
On Monday Mazzant denied the NFL's request filed last week that he suspend his injunction -- which means Elliott can still play for the time being.
Mazzant's decision Monday was expected and came after the NFL had already moved on to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans with the same request. In his ruling Monday, Mazzant criticized the NFL for not waiting for his decision after using the argument of premature filings against the NFL Players Association in Elliott's request for the injunction. The judge wrote that the "irony is not lost on the court."
The NFL filed a request for an emergency stay with the appeals court Friday, and the union issued a response the next day. The league responded to the union's filing Monday. All the filings make similar arguments from the original lawsuit the NFLPA filed on Elliott's behalf in Mazzant's court.
Elliott's team responded to the motion with a statement that read, in part:
The NFL's latest legal maneuvering appears to be indicative of a league with an agenda: trying to navigate a public relations crisis rather than focus on fairness and fact finding. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the NFL believes it can write its own rules and will stop at nothing to further its agenda of enforcing its unfounded assertions regarding Mr. Elliott.
The NFL Player's Association then quickly filed a response Friday. The NFL's reply brief completed the briefing process.
The 22-year-old Elliott was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell last month, and attorneys representing Elliott for the NFL Players' Association contended in a lawsuit that Elliott didn't get a fair hearing in an appeal that was denied.
Elliott was suspended after the league concluded he had several physical confrontations last summer with Tiffany Thompson, a former girlfriend. Prosecutors in Columbus decided not to pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence.
Attorneys for Elliott argued that the NFL can't meet the standard for irreparable harm because the league can still suspend the Dallas star if its wins on appeal. The league argues that the harm is in Mazzant's ruling interfering with a labor deal that was approved by both sides.
The NFL said its conclusions in suspending Elliott after a yearlong investigation were based on photographs, text messages and other electronic evidence. The running back denied the allegations under oath during the appeal.
The league argued that it acted within the parameters of a labor agreement that gives Goodell broad authority to suspend players, and that the appeal process was consistent with its personal conduct policy.
Attorneys for Elliott contended that the appeal hearing before Harold Henderson was unfair because Henderson barred Thompson and Goodell from testifying and excluded notes from the investigation that were favorable to Elliott. Mazzant's ruling for the injunction largely agreed.
Elliott, who had 1,631 yards rushing last year as a rookie, finished with 104 yards in the 19-3 win over the Giants in Week 1. He was limited to 8 yards on 9 carries in a 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Denver Sunday.
NFL Files Injunction
NFL PA's Response